Max Gimblett’s painting is intrinsically rooted in two dominant artistic and cultural trends of the immediate post-war era in America: abstract expressionism and a renewed interest in eastern religion, philosophy and culture. Gimblett’s abstract paintings include colour-field works such as India (1980-81) and Zen (1980-85), as well as his immediately recognisable gestural works like Fish – 2 Koi Senin (1984), in which he takes an approach to the canvas that combines abstract expressionist mark-making with Japanese calligraphy. Gimblett left high school at 15, subsequently studying banking and finance at night school before entering National Service in the New Zealand Army. He was posted to an artillery regiment.
Gimblett travelled through Europe before settling in Canada in 1962, where he worked as an apprentice to Roman Bartkiw and Merton Chambers, both ceramic artists. In 1964 and 1965, Gimblett studied at the Ontario College of Art, Toronto and the San Francisco Art Institute. Between 1967 and 1972, Gimblett maintained studios in Bloomington, Indiana and Austin, Texas, before settling in New York, where he has maintained a studio since 1972. In that year, Gimblett met fellow expatriate artist Len Lye, who mentored him until Lye’s death in 1980. Gimblett began to visit New Zealand regularly from 1977 onwards, building a profile both in America and New Zealand over the following decades.
In New York, Gimblett’s work is held in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. In New Zealand, his work is represented in the collection of the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, the Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waihetu, Auckland University and Waikato University. Gimblett is a Rinzai monk, and his practice is informed by his Buddhist faith. He continues to live and work in New York, visiting New Zealand regularly. He is married to Dr Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett.